A Pie-venture

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We like pie. This will become forcefully evident as you continue to read, but I thought I’d better inform you now so there’s no confusion about the direction of this post. We are pie girls. We appreciate pie in all of its forms: double-crusted, savory, fruit, sweet, hand, cow. Just kidding on that last one. Ew. My lovely co-blogger has a surprising tolerance for pie, despite her avowed lack of a sweet tooth, so I try to take advantage of this as often as possible. When a mutual friend who has, well, a fascination with pie, invited us on a Pie Day Adventure in San Francisco, we signed on.

We began our quest at the 2nd Annual SF Pie Social and Competition, held at the Verdi Club in San Francisco. Local bakers enter their best pies into a contest for the sampling pleasure of several impressive judges – this year’s included Elisabeth Prueitt, owner of Tartine Bakery, and Jake Godby, owner of Humphry Slocombe, among other illustrious names. More importantly, each ticket purchased  (in addition to benefiting the San Francisco Community School) gets you a slice of your pie of choice. Extra pie slices were available for $3, but the slices were hefty so we were rather glad to have some friends to share between. When you enter the theatre, you are confronted by a silent auction to your right, live music on the stage ahead, and a loooooong line of freshly-baked pies to your left. You get to walk down this seemingly endless table and choose your pie flavor: key lime, banoffee, rhubarb crumble, s’mores, berry, apple, chocolate, lemon meringue… (Do you know what a sight like that does to a girl?) Slices are brought out on a cart a few at a time, so everyone swarms the table periodically to investigate the new flavors. Despite the fact that I waited in vain for a slice of the desired salted caramel apple, we had a lot of fun. In the end, I was rewarded with a game-changing raspberry cream pie and we sat for a few moments in the glow.

Pie stomachs full, we ventured into the Mission in search of actual food to combat the inevitable sugar crash. It was agreed that something rich and savory was required to combat the sugar-fatigue so, after several blocks and one delirious trip to Heath Ceramics later (do you like beautiful things? Go there), we wound our way to the counter the the Great American Grilled Cheese Kitchen.  We ordered, alighted upon a few bar stools, and waited as thick slabs of bread were toasted with a jumble of epicurean delights: melting Gruyere, roasted mushrooms, pulled pork, pickles… All of these combinations, crunchy and cheese-filled, were accompanied not only by a tiny apple but seasonal lemonades and housemade sodas (sugar overdose be damned).

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So there we were, primed with pie and satisfied by crispy grilled cheeses, ready for more adventure. And a nap. A long nap in the sun. Where else does a group head on a sunny Sunday afternoon after a calorie-dense extended lunch? Dolores Park, to watch dogs play, kids eat potato salad with their bare hands, and adults do drugs with casual enthusiasm. When the place is crowded and there’s a cool breeze to brush the sun from your shoulders, it makes for a relaxing people-watching experience and a rare excuse to lie down in the middle of the day. And when the charms of watching a crowd of people learn to hula-hoop begin to fade, you can get up and go buy more pie.

Chile Pies & Ice Cream is wedged into a little storefront in NoPa. They have a healthy selection of pie – sweet and savory – and a handful of other offerings, but what really drew us was the pie shake. If you haven’t already grasped the concept, it’s a slice of pie shoved into blender with ice cream and milk. I chose basil apple pie and sweet Three Twins vanilla ice cream. The flavors are familiar, comforting even, but this version of the classic is borderline-illicit with chunks of pie crust studding the thick shake. They serve it with a fat straw like one would with boba, but the crumbled pie crust get stuck in it all the same. Being a semi-healthy adult, I had nearly forgotten the frustration of trying drink a milkshake before it has had time to soften; the pie shake experience was like hitting In-N-Out on a childhood road trip all over again. I can with conviction share that, after a slice of pie and a cubano grilled cheese sandwich, it’s a little overwhelming. Like marriage, a pie shake should not be considered lightly, but with careful planning it can yield a uniquely rewarding experience. And it’s about as expensive.

Wending our way home on tired feet, we had the travel-worn, distant gaze of true explorers and the satisfied smiles of pie-crazy ladies coming home from a long pieventure. It’s a good lesson to learn: sometimes adventure is only a BART ride and a ticket to the pie contest away. So figure out what makes you happy, put the little one in a BabyBjorn or a leash on the dog, and go.

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